Monday, May 19, 2008

41. "Call It Sleep" - Henry Roth


Practically ignored after its 1935 debut, Call It Sleep didn't gain popularity until the 60s.

David is growing up in the Jewish slums of NYC under the manipulative, angry thumb of his witchy, job-losing father and fantasy princess spell of his perfect mother.

The novel touches on the day-to-day living, each experience a canker on David's sensitive soul. At one point I wanted to smack poor David and say, "Stand up for yourself. Stop being the victim." But the father's character is so frightening that it's easy to imagine that hope for silence.

Roth writes conversation like non-English speakers did, which adds more to the feel of the story, similar to Tom Sawyer or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Something had to happen - there was no way that David was going to continue to put up with his father's malice. But that "something" didn't work for me. Religious overtones? Too metaphorical for a booming culture? I'll let you all decide, then tell me.

2.8 out of 5.0 Shoot the Roots.

2 comments:

Jeane said...

Funny, I just wrote about this very book on my blog yesterday. I happened to feel very sympathetic for David- after all, he's just a kid and what a terror of a father! One of my favorite books.

Pete said...

I trudged through the first section of Call It Sleep a couple of years ago, then had to return the book to the library (I couldn't renew it, because someone else had a "hold" on it). I never bothered resuming it.